Chicken Tarragon is one of my favorite all in one meals. It is a French Provencal dish that is healthy, hearty, aromatic, and not to mention wonderfully delicious. The ingredients are pretty basic, which is a definite plus in my book. The first time I ever came across chicken tarragon was in a cookbook (Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook) that was given to me as a birthday gift MANY years ago. This is actually the book that sparked my interest in ethnic cooking. As a matter of fact, I think Chicken Tarragon was the first thing that I ever made out of this book. Although this dish consists of a few steps, don’t let that hold you back. They are easy, well timed steps.
The herb that shines through in this dish is of course tarragon! The botanical name for tarragon is Artemisia dracuncula. The name comes from Artemis, the Greek goddess of wisdom and draconis, the word for dragon in Latin. Unlike other herbs in antiquity tarragon’s medicinal uses appear to be somewhat restricted. The ancient Greeks used it to cure toothaches. Another common use for tarragon was as a treatment for snake bites. Huh? Snake bites? Really? Yes, really. Sounds weird I know. This use actually stems from a medieval medical belief that a plant’s shape was an indication of what is was good for from a medical standpoint. Tarragon has a serpentine shape, thus the assumption that it was an adequate remedy for snake bites. This medical theory was known as the Doctrine of Signatures. So now you can impress your friends with this little trivia tidbit.
Tarragon is thought to be original to Mongolia and Siberia. French tarragon has a minty/licorice flavor. In culinary circles it is referred to as the “king of herbs.” This is not surprising since its is so aromatic and unique. There is a Russian version of tarragon which has a more bitter taste than its French counterpart. Although tarragon has been around since antiquity, it is estimated that cultivation has only taken place for about 700 years. In the context of human history, that’s the blink of an eye.
One of the aspects of chicken tarragon that I like the best is that this dish is a perfectly balanced meal. The chicken provides the protein, carrots provide the vegetable and served with rice, you have your grains. You can make this dish in a Dutch oven or a braising pan. I actually prefer the Dutch oven because I can take it straight to the table. Chicken tarragon goes well with mashed potatoes or white rice. Traditionally this dish is prepared using whole pieces of chicken, bone and all. The bones add a lot of flavor. Now that Fall is upon us, this is a great dish to serve your family.
- 2-3 lbs. roaster chicken cut into pieces
- 1 tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. dried tarragon
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 carrot peeled and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup minced celery
- 4 shallots minced
- 3 -4 bay leaves
- Preheat oven to 300F.
- Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven over medium heat place 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and brown the chicken on both sides until it is about ¾ of the way cooked.
- Remove chicken from Dutch oven and place in a 13"x9" oven safe glass dish along with the carrots. Sprinkle with tarragon and set in oven uncovered for about 35 minutes.
- Scrape out the Dutch oven and toss out the scrapings.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the Dutch oven and saute the shallots and the celery until shallots begin to brown slightly.
- Add the stock and the wine and bring to a boil. Let it boil for about 2 minutes and turn heat down to medium. Stir in the tomato paste. Reduce the sauce to about 2 cups.
- Remove 1 cup of the juice and set aside.The other cup will be used to baste the chicken that is cooking in the oven. Baste every 5-10 minutes.
- For the cream sauce: Place cream in a small saucepan on medium heat. Slowly add the reserved 1 cup of juice stirring constantly. Reduce the sauce until it coats the back of a spoon(nappe consistency).
- Transfer the chicken from glass dish back to the Dutch oven to serve.
- Pour cream sauce over chicken.